I’ll probably never be a Marine counter-terrorism specialist or a diplomatic envoy or drone pilot. Their experiences will always remain a mystery to me. But I don’t think they can feel good right now.
It doesn’t feel good to risk your life for a country that won’t pause to show its support. It doesn’t feel good to throw your life in harm’s way, only to hear that if there were another commander-in-chief, things would be different. It doesn’t feel good to be told your tremendous sacrifice is simply some politician’s collateral damage.
History doesn’t provide precedent for this kind of behavior, but it doesn’t matter. Republicans could’ve jumped down F.D.R.’s throat the moment the U.S.S. Arizona went down; Reagan could’ve assaulted Carter when the first helicopter malfunctioned, hell; and Al Gore might’ve vilified Bush as the North Tower crashed to the ground. Even if those scenarios were history, they would not justify the current reality. There is no bar, no standard: no excuse.
I’m not going to use the word “politicize” because it’s too easily brushed off. Taxes and healthcare are politicized. Libya, and Egypt, and Yemen have not been politicized. They are currently in the process of being dehumanized.
There is a reason we rally behind the president in times of chaos. It is not because we want to aid him politically. It has nothing to do with politics. It’s because in times of chaos we need a leader to guide us. When our country is challenged, we need to unite in order to overcome. We need the Commander-in-Chief to help us because he is who we have chosen for the job. No matter what our feelings towards him are, during moments of crisis, he was chosen, the man who our armed services trust and follow.
And the president, whoever he may be, must appreciate the gravity of his station. He needs us too. The little known secret that flew by the media is that our unity isn’t just for the servicemen and our wellbeing. He needs it.
The president’s power is enormous and not easily wielded. Whatever decision he makes affects the entire world—real people from around the world. Yet we trust a single person with this power. Such is the nature of our government. He should not consider - we as a nation cannot allow him to consider political factors in the equation. Global, not just American, lives are involved. We cannot, as fellow human beings, let negative ads, politics, and rhetoric enter the periphery of our leader’s vision. It is not a question of tact. It is a moral necessity.
This commandment was the underlying, unspoken truth that founded our traditionally unified response in the face of adversity. Originating from the same part of the world we now find ourselves again, the commandment tells us to respect human life. Not dehumanize it.
Unlike much of this campaign, this issue is timeless, and its implications go far beyond the year 2012. The way we react to this issue right now, in this moment, and the way our media portrays this debate, sets a precedent for the future. And while I may not think much of precedent, others disagree. Write to your Congressman, talk to your friends, call your parents. We much react strongly to let the media, the politicians and the world know that human life is greater than politics. If we let this moment pass then we have only ourselves to blame when future sacrifice is not honored. Underneath the layers of criticism and discourse, that is the fundamental issue. Human life, past life lost, and life to be sacrificed in the coming days and years is more important than an election.
There is a time for criticism. I’m not prepared to say when and where that will take place. Vietnam was on the table in 1968 and the Iraq War was fair game in 2004. Our democracy necessitates redirection when gone afoul. And even though I certainly feel that the present predicament varies significantly from ‘68 and ‘04 there is no concrete way to define the differences. It was time. People had already processed the importance of those wars, the human cost, and could look at them critically. There is no easy answer with time. But I know right now there is a pit in my stomach. Something feels kind of broken. And if you don’t feel that, it’s unlikely debate will bring you around.
But I challenge you with a reminder. Even if you don’t agree with me on much else, remember that last Wednesday morning America was united sans one man. It took a full 24 hours for his backers to realize they had no choice but to rally behind him. Hopefully, that will be the most power he ever wields over this great nation. Because the way I see it, the only person who’s been granted such authority is the president. And in that field, there is only one.